Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants has provided us with the following list of state legislative bills they are seeking support for in 2017. While we have not gone through a formal process of review, the Valley Justice Coalition has similar goals and encourages you to consider lending these bills your support.
- HB 1651 Inmate trust accounts; exemption
- Provides that an inmate who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment that makes the inmate ineligible for release, excluding geriatric release, prior to 75 years of age is exempt from depositing 10 percent of any funds the inmate receives into an inmate personal trust account.
- HB 1655 Sentencing guidelines; appeals
- Allows a court’s failure to file the required written explanation deviating from the discretionary sentencing guidelines to be reviewable on appeal, provided that the sentence imposed exceeded the maximum of the sentencing guidelines range by more than 12 months. The bill provides that the appellate court reviewing the sentence shall (i) determine whether there exists evidence of potential bias by the court that imposed the sentence and (ii) if such evidence is found, review the sentence for abuse of discretion.
- HB 1734 Virginia Parole Board; exceptions to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
- Requires guidance documents of the Virginia Parole Board to be available as public records under FOIA.
- HB 2224 Parole Board; appointment; terms
- Creates the Parole Qualifications Committee to receive and review applications for vacancies on the Parole Board. The bill requires the Committee to provide a nonbinding recommendation list of three eligible candidates to the Governor and requires that eligible candidates, other than a crime victim who may be appointed by the Governor pursuant to current law, for the Parole Board have (i) a law degree or a degree from an accredited university or college with a major in criminology, corrections, or a related social science and (ii) at least five years of experience in corrections, criminal justice, or criminal law. The bill establishes five-year terms for members of the Parole Board; current law does not establish terms but provides that members serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
- SB 830 Food stamps; eligibility to receive benefits if convicted of drug-related felonies.
- Provides that a person who is otherwise eligible to receive food stamp benefits shall not be denied such assistance solely because he has been convicted of a first-time felony offense of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in violation of § 18.2-248, provided that he complies with all obligations imposed by the criminal court and the Department of Social Services, is actively engaged in or has completed substance abuse treatment, and participates in drug screenings. Current law prohibits denial of such benefits only if such persons have been convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance.
- SB 923 Grand larceny; threshold
- Increases from $200 to $500 the threshold amount of money taken or value of goods or chattel taken at which the crime rises from petit larceny to grand larceny. The bill increases the threshold by the same amount for the classification of certain property crimes.
- SB 825 New sentencing hearing; abolition of parole.
- Provides that a person who was sentenced by a jury prior to the date of the Supreme Court of Virginia decision in Fishback v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 104 (June 9, 2000), in which the Court held that a jury should be instructed on the fact that parole has been abolished, for a noncapital felony committed prior to the time that the abolition of parole went into effect (January 1, 1995) is entitled to a new sentencing proceeding if such person is still incarcerated. The bill provides that such person shall file a petition for a new sentencing proceeding with the Court of Appeals, which shall direct the circuit court in which the order of conviction was originally entered to empanel a new jury for the purpose of conducting the new sentencing proceeding and notify the appropriate attorney for the Commonwealth. The bill also provides that if the attorney for the Commonwealth and the person filing the petition agree, such person may waive his right to a new sentencing proceeding and allow the court to fix punishment.
A longer list of active bills relevant to criminal justice which we may want to support or oppose can be found here.